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Arrow keys are buttons on a computer keyboard that move the cursor in a specified direction. They are typically located at the bottom of the keyboard to the side of the numeric keypad, usually arranged in an inverted-T layout but also found in diamond shapes. Arrow keys are commonly used for navigating around documents and for playing games. Before the computer mouse was widespread, arrow keys were the primary way of moving a cursor on screen. MouseKeys is a feature that allows controlling a mouse cursor with arrow keys instead. A feature echoed in the Amiga's whereby holding the Amiga key would allow you to move the mouse pointer with the arrow keys in the workbench(OS), but most games require a mouse or joystick. The use of Arrow Keys in games has come back into fashion from the late 1980s and early 1990s when Joysticks were a must, and were usually used in preference to Arrow Keys with some games not supporting any Keys.
The original Apple Macintosh had no arrow keys, because the mouse would be used instead. Arrow keys were included in later Apple keyboards. Early models with arrow keys but no middle section (Home, End, etc.) placed them in one line below the right-hand Shift key in an HJKL-like fashion; later versions had a standard inverted-T layout in the middle block.
Alternatives to the arrow keys include:
- the WASD or WAXD keys (on QWERTY keyboards) and ,AOE (on Dvorak keyboards). Sometimes this combination is used simultaneously with the arrow keys. For example, in many 3D games a player will navigate the level with WASD while moving the camera is done with the arrow keys or vice versa. The mouse can be used as well, and is a more commonly used than the arrow keys to control camera movement.
- the ESDF keys, an alternative to WASD, which keeps the hand in the same place as it normally would be for touch-typing.
- the 8462 or 7845 keys on the numeric keypad.
- the IJKL keys often used for webgames, where arrows cause undesirable browser window shifting.
- the HJKL keys (in vi and related editors; this lets the user navigate without having to move their hand too far)
- the ESDX keys (known as the "cursor movement diamond") were used in the WordStar word processor and related applications
- some older computer games on PCs use OPQA for control of the main character